Published on 2014/07/02

Marketing CE: Branding on an iPhone, iPad and other iDevices

Marketing CE: Branding on an iDevice
With the ubiquity of Apple devices, institutions should look beyond software and explore marketing opportunities with device hardware.
Custom apps. Wallpapers/backgrounds. Mobile-optimized websites. Mobile is changing the game for marketers, regardless of industry, country and brand size.

This is because everyone owns a smart device. In the pocket of the vast majority of Americans is a smartphone. And, for 42 percent of that group, their smartphone of choice is Apple’s iPhone.[1] Beyond phones, more and more people are purchasing tablets for personal computing. And, once again, Apple’s iPad dominates with a 32 percent market share.[2]

There are plenty of ways to market to your prospective continuing education (CE) students via iPhones and iPads. But these devices are so ubiquitous. They’re everywhere, figuratively and literally.

So, here’s an obvious question: what about marketing on them? Really, physically, on them so your brand is seen every time the device is touched, not just when the screen is on?

In the past few years, I’ve tried this via two methods; one that didn’t work, and one that appears to be effective.

The Bad

First, the bad. An iPad skin/cover. I wrote about this a while ago, but it’s worth revisiting. This was a sticker that goes on the back of an iPad, along with a border that attaches to the front around the screen. Additionally, a background image of our school logo could be downloaded. We achieved full coverage of the iPad with our school logo; a good thing.

But perhaps it was too much. Current CE students would ask for them (“Hey, cool, an iPad skin!”), but they would ultimately never use them. It was all too much. Too much work to install and too much of our logo on it.

Overt marketing can cross the line, and finding a balance is a challenge.

The University of Arizona South had a simple approach to branding iDevices; they created a logo sticker to go on the home button.
The Good

The second — successful — marketing item is easy and just the right size: a button with the university logo that sticks over the ‘home’ button on an iPhone or iPad.

This is small, easy to install, easy to remove and soft with a nice touch to it. The cost was also right; about 50 cents a button. The vendor provided two in a package so students either had one for each device or one to pass along to a friend, kid or colleague (more exposure!). Students ask for them in class and install them right away. Admittedly, with heavy or abusive use, the buttons can fall off. However, this negative spins easily into a positive. Providing a replacement gives us another chance to engage in an interaction with a student.

Interest in the buttons has been high among students between 18 and 28, and those 50 and over. Fans of the university’s sports teams also ask for buttons, helping expand brand awareness. Hopefully, our current and prospective students pushing the button on the Apple device will ultimately translate into increased enrollment in our CE programs.

– – – –


[1] Luke Villapaz, “Apple iPhone Continues to Lead Samsung and Other Android Smartphones in US Mobile Market,” International Business Times, January 16, 2014. Accessed at

[2] Trefis Team, “Samsung Launches New Premium Tablets, But Going After Apple’s Market Share Could Be a Challenge,” Forbes Magazine, June 17, 2014. Accessed at

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Impact of Online Shopping on Higher Education

Learn to implement eCommerce best practices and create a positive learning experience.

Read here

Readers Comments

James Osborne 2014/07/02 at 4:07 pm

Sounds like a neat idea. Sounds like a great way to tap into the growing tablet market.

Was there any discussion to have buttons compatible with other tablets (e.g. Samsung) or just Apple products? I also wonder what the feedback has been from people whose buttons fell off and needed replacing. For me, I would find that annoying, but it sounds like people like them enough to go back and ask for a replacement.

    John DeLalla 2014/07/03 at 2:23 pm

    Thanks for your comment and question.
    The button vendor makes them just for Apple devices, but I’ve seen some creative uses on other products. I assume if market demand is enough other hardware manufacturers might be supported by the vendor in the future.

    I would think folks would be upset if the button sticker falls off, but those asking for replacements don’t seem upset. But then again, I only hear from the folks asking for a new one, and those that don’t ask might be upset. I’m sorry I don’t have the data for all ‘button users’ to share. 🙂

QT 2014/07/02 at 6:54 pm

This is going to be outdated really soon — the new iPhones and iPads have fingerprint scanners built into the home buttons.

    John DeLalla 2014/07/03 at 2:20 pm

    Thanks for your comment – and you’re right – the new fingerprint readers make the buttons unusable. Yet enough folks still have the older phones/tablets that there is still demand, and I’ve seen some students put the buttons on other locations on their devices, so there is some creative use here . . .

      QT 2014/07/04 at 1:59 pm

      I know you guys give a lot of this stuff away, but what about producing higher-quality stuff and selling it for slightly below market value?

      For example, what about selling a branded otterbox style case for $15? It’s less than an otterbox would cost plus it’s still advertising on the outside of the iPhone… except that it’s the whole iPhone AND faces out whenever people are using it.

      The more I think about it, the button seems like a great way to keep the university in mind for the people who already went there (and thus have the button sticker) but it’s not really visible to anyone else.

      I know you guys made iPad skins… what about iPhone skins?

        QT 2014/07/04 at 2:00 pm

        Oh I see you already addressed the small size thing in the response below… but still, iPhone skins seem like they would be a hit if the iPad skins did well!

RF 2014/07/02 at 8:12 pm

I don’t see how these branded buttons could help attract new students. Something more ‘traditional,’ like a pen, could be passed around to strangers; but how likely are people with no prior connection to the institution to notice a button on someone’s iPad or better yet request their own? Branded buttons won’t be effective if the aim is to increase exposure.

    John DeLalla 2014/07/03 at 2:28 pm

    Thanks for your comment. When I attend meetings, events, dinners, etc, I look around when the devices come out. I notice the cases, covers, etc. Yes, a button is small, but if you’re sitting next to someone in a meeting, you’re close enough to see the button. The button can be the basis for starting some causal conversation that can help spur word of mouth marketing. It’s not as effective as a pen or other item that can be passed around, but I think it’s more effective than an app or wallpaper on the device. Combined with the low per-item cost, I think it’s a worthwhile, unique, marketing item to use.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *